Everybody loves a bright white smile, and there are a variety of products and procedures available to help whiten and brighten yours. Many people are satisfied with the sparkle they get from brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, and regular cleanings. However, if you decide you would like to make your smile brighter, there are several options to explore.
Finding the best treatment for you
First, schedule a visit with your orthodontist to learn whether whitening procedures would be effective for you, as whiteners do not correct all types of discoloration. For example, yellowish teeth will probably bleach well, brownish teeth may bleach less well, and grayish teeth may not bleach at all. Likewise, whitening may not be useful if you have had tooth-colored fillings or crowns, as the whitener has no effect on the color of these materials. In fact, they may stand out in your newly whitened smile. In cases like this, you may want to consider porcelain veneers, which cover the face of the tooth.
Whitening treatment options
- Professional teeth whitening
- At-home whitening system
- Whitening toothpaste
Professional teeth whitening
Professional teeth whitening by your doctor is your best choice when you want immediate whitening results. This procedure is called chair-side bleaching and may require more than one office visit. During chair-side bleaching, the orthodontist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth and a special light may be used to enhance the action of the agent. Each visit lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
At-home whitening systems
There are several types of products available for at-home use. They can be dispensed by your doctor or purchased over-the-counter. If you are purchasing over-the-counter, be sure to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance – your assurance that a product has met ADA standards of safety and effectiveness.
Teeth Whitening Trays
These products bleach the tooth enamel using carbamide peroxide, which comes in several concentrations (10%, 16%, and 22%). Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed in a mouthguard. Some products are used twice a day for two weeks, while others are intended for overnight use for one to two weeks. If you obtain the bleaching solution from your doctor’s office, they can make a custom-fitted mouth guard that will fit your teeth precisely. Note that currently, only orthodontist-dispensed, home-use, 10% carbamide peroxide tray-applied gels carry the ADA Seal.
Teeth Whitening Strips
Teeth whitening strips are thin, flexible plastic (polyethylene) strips containing a thin film of hydrogen peroxide bleaching on one side. Whitening strip kits come with separate strips for the upper and lower teeth. The strips are placed with the peroxide-containing side gently pressed against your teeth. Teeth whitening strips are typically worn for 30 minutes a day, twice a day.
Paint-On Teeth Whitening
Paint-on teeth whitening allows you to apply a bleaching agent directly to your teeth without an appliance or strip. You simply “paint” the whitener onto the surface of clean, dry teeth and wait about 30 minutes while the paint turns to a dry film. To remove this film, you simply brush your teeth with a toothbrush. Paint-on whitening products require twice-daily applications to be effective. The duration of treatment will vary. An advantage in this process is that you can selectively paint individual teeth.
Teeth whitening can have minor side effects, such as increased sensitivity in the teeth while using the bleaching solution. In most cases, this sensitivity is temporary. Some people also experience soft tissue irritation. Speak with your doctor if any side effect worsens or if you have concerns.
All toothpastes help remove surface stain from your teeth through the action of mild abrasives. Whitening toothpastes that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance also contain special chemicals or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these products do not alter the intrinsic color of teeth.